EFP 62: How To Hire Your First Virtual Assistant

Justin Cooke September 5, 2013

How To Hire Your First VAIf you’re secretly worried about your first Virtual Assistant “hire” – we’re here to tell you that you’re not alone.

What if he or she sucks? What if you don’t have enough work for your VA to do? How do you choose someone that’s likely to LAST?

Joe and I are on the ground in the country that most of you are looking to hire virtual assistants and we wanted to give you some real-world advice, tips, and tricks when it comes to hiring your first VA. In this episode we’ll cover topics that include what projects you should be hiring for, how to ensure you’re building the team that you need, and how to get the most out of your new VA hire.

Hiring and Maximizing Your Virtual Assistant’s Effectiveness

Whether you’re currently working with a virtual assistant or looking to hire someone in the near future, this is an episode you won’t want to miss.

Also – at the top of the show we mentioned a business/site giveaway! Leave your best comments on why you want the site and what you plan to do with it, and we might pick you to win both GetMeListedNow.com and GetMeListedNow.co.uk!

Check Out This Week’s Episode Here:

Direct Download – Right Click, Save As

Topics Discussed This Week Include:

  • Business Website Giveaway! – Listen in for details!
  • Replace yourself on PROFITABLE streams of revenue
  • Hire With Specificity – Nobody can do everything
  • DIY Vs. Done-For-You services
  • Tips And Tricks To Weed Out The Donkeys
  • Using The Buddy System To Your Advantage
  • Skill Transfering And The “Access” Debate


So – what struggles have you dealt with when looking for your first VA hire? Any tips you’d like to share? Let us know on Twitter, drop us a voice recording, or leave us a comment – we’d love to hear from you!


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speaker 1:                           Welcome to the Empire Flippers podcast. Are you sick and tired of Guru’s who have plenty of ideas but are short of substance? Worried that E book you bought for $17.95 won’t bring you the personal and financial freedom you long for? Hey, you’re not alone. Join thousands of others in their pursuit of much profits, without the bullshit. Straight from your hosts, Justin and Joe from Empire Flippers.

Justin Cooke:                     Welcome to episode 62 of the Empire Flippers podcast, I’m your host Justin Cooke and I’m here with Joe ” Hot Money” Magnotti. What is going on brother?

Joe Magnotti:                    Back from vacation.

Justin Cooke:                     Back from vacation, yeah man, I had a great week in Borki last week. Sorry I couldn’t put the podcast up. I think it was like, we had .24 megabyte downloads. It was horrible. Me and you where trying to chat and it was doing the whole-

Joe Magnotti:                    It was like 1997.

Justin Cooke:                     Horrible man.

                                                Anyway, we are back this week and we’ve got a great episode lined up. We are going to be talking about how to hire your first virtual assistant. Not scaling a team. Not growing a business based on the backs of your team, No. This is you first hire. We’re gonna talk about where to go, what Easter eggs to use. How to train them. We are going to get into all of it so, we’ll do that in just a bit. First let’s do some updates, news and info.

                                                First one we got is iTunes reviews by

Joe Magnotti:                    Hit me up man.

Justin Cooke:                     I first iTunes review comes from Pilot Eric. Says “ I’m always learning something new in your shows. Great episodes.” We’ve got Brad G. From Canada says “great insights. Hey guys, I wish I found this podcast earlier. I’m about to break my first $100,000 dollars in sales on Flippa.” Boom buddy. That’s pretty awesome.

Joe Magnotti:                    It is pretty awesome.

Justin Cooke:                     We’ve also got [Sean 00:01:37], Sean K. What’s going on man? The chronic marketer. You know something is awesome when it doesn’t arrive when you expect it and even with your day to day busy schedule, you notice it’s missing. Appreciate it Sean. Yeah he emailed me actually and was like “ dude wants going on man? What’s going on with the podcast?” I sent him back, you know a Vine?

Joe Magnotti:                    Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Justin Cooke:                     You ever use Vine? Those little seven second videos. Download the app real quick and take a video of my girlfriend in the pool bar chilling, said “ fine Sean. Can’t make it buddy, blah blah blah.” It was great man.

Joe Magnotti:                    Great. I love it.

Justin Cooke:                     It was awesome. So our next bit of info, you and I have had some hiring issues.

Joe Magnotti:                    I feel like we relive this on every podcast.

Justin Cooke:                     I think it’s a recurring problem or theme we are having, but we had a hiring manager and that didn’t work out. We brought on a new hiring manager and that is working out. The problem is, is that the interviewees that we are getting in, are not showing up. They’re not showing up for their interviews. Their not, not getting it done man.

Joe Magnotti:                    I wonder if we need to incentivize the interview process somehow?

Justin Cooke:                     You can get free coffee or something?

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah. The free rice. I don’t know what it is, but it’s something.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah free, free medicine. The problem is I think, funny how we’re talking about how to hire your first VA and we’ve people not showing up to interviews, but we’ll get into some of the things you can do to fix that. And one of our problems I think is we back down. So we’ve backed out of the hiring process. You and I aren’t involved in that anymore at all. And so I think maybe that was too big of a jump. Maybe we need to kind of insert our selves again. Kind of go back to making sure that are ready to go bringing people on board. I think that might help the process.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah unfortunately I think it may be something we have to do. Insert ourselves in. It is dis concerning that in a country where unemployment is so high, people don’t show up for an interview that they are qualified for the position.

Justin Cooke:                     Its priorities man. Family right? It’s not the Philippines where they have other pressing issues or whatever. Something else on their plate.

                                                Third point I want to talk about is, a new site process. So Joe I’m gonna let you get into this a little bit.

Joe Magnotti:                    So we’ve been having some success building that content hub, repurposing old content on sites that we just dropped out and consolidating that. And some of the tactics I’ve learned over there, gonna adapt those tactics to building out better niche sites. And so what we are going to do is, we’re starting this week with five sites, is we’re gonna build out niche sites that have 50 pages content, that use an expired domain and have some other category changes.

Justin Cooke:                     Strong link profiles. We’re going to be doing some link redirects and redirecting them to the home page as far as the linkages. I really dig the process. It opens it up to you where we can target keywords that we weren’t able to do exact match domains. And hopefully, we’re hoping we get the same benefit as we’re picking up PR twos, PR threes with some links used that are already there. These are established domains that have been out there for a while. So hopefully we’ll be able to just cross transfer our EMD benefit, to the fact that these are established. They’ve been around for a while and have linktures.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah, I’m really excited because like you said this allows us to go after some of those… That low hanging fruit that was there but it just didn’t have an EMD available.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah, we miss out on a lot of opportunities because we were only doing only these, and we would come across keyword that might have been fantastic, but we just don’t target. And that’s cool cause we have a process right? And the real value is that you and I don’t do shit right? We’re out of the process. We’re not doing any of it. So that’s really the opportunity we look for and I think we’re able to do it here as long as we’re able to. We could help guide a design of the process, but we don’t want to be involved in the day to day work.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah, and I think this stems from us really taking a hard look at sites we created from October 2012 until May 2013.

Justin Cooke:                     We’re not getting enough winners.

Joe Magnotti:                    We’re just not getting winners and the average per site has definitely fallen. It’s still profitable. Especially with the fact that we resell the sites, but it’s still good for the customers that buy the sites. But I just think that we could do a lot better.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah we haven’t finished our testing there, but we were like, we claimed about $8 to $10 a month range. Now it’s closer to $6 to $8 a month range, which yeah we’re looking at pretty closely right now. We’ll have some more information in a couple of weeks.

                                                Last bit of business. We wanted to offer a give a way basically. So couple years ago, Joe and I were working on a site and brand called “ Get Me Listed Now.”

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah, so this was gonna be our local SEO offering. It was our local SEO offering. This was going to be the big savior of our company. Back before we had Empire Flippers, the idea was to have our own product or service, and one of the ideas we came up with, was our own local SEO offering. Because we had people that were trained and doing local SEO. So we came up with a brand and a website and a domain name.

Justin Cooke:                     Problem is we didn’t know the sale cycle. We actually partnered with a guy, this would be a great story for an actual podcast episode. We partnered with a guy that was going to get the sales down and that just didn’t happen. Just didn’t happen, right? I mean I went up there for a week to train and whatever and it just didn’t work out. So we’ve got these sites, we’ve got the brand just sitting around, it’s got a Google apps account attached to it I guess, right?

Joe Magnotti:                    It does. So even if you wanted Google apps, but right now I don’t think Google apps gives free email addresses anymore or only gives like 5 or something like that.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah.

Joe Magnotti:                    This has one of those grandfathered Google apps accounts of 50 email addresses. So there’s some value in just that alone.

Justin Cooke:                     So the basic business helps local small to medium size businesses in the UK or in the US, get their local listings, get their local profiles up and ranked for local search terms that our relevant to them. So that’s the business. It’s a local SEO type business for SMB’s. And we’re willing to give it away. Here’s the deal. Anyone who puts a comment on this episode, we’re going to look over the comments of people that really want. Just put in the comment why you think you’d be a good fit for taking over this site and this brand and this business. And then tell us what your plan is to do with it. Anyone who does that, we are gonna select from the comments in the post and if we select your comment, then you will be the one getting the sites and the brand.

Joe Magnotti:                    Just a point of clarification, it comes with no customers and no revenue and no built out actual operational process. So you have to figure out the product and service to actually deliver.

Justin Cooke:                     Oh all that. Actually I do want to get on the phone and whatever and we can discuss what are plan was and how we were able to do it. We did have at one point, I think ten paying customers. So we can kind of go through the process with you on what we did operationally, but yeah it would be completely up to you to set all that up. So anyway if you want getmelistednow.com and getmelistednow.co.uk, go and leave a comment on why you want it and hopefully you can be the winner.

                                                Alright buddy, let’s get into the heart of this weeks’ episode.

speaker 1:                           This is the Empire Flippers podcast.

Justin Cooke:                     So we’ve talked before on the podcast show about how to build a business. How to train your people once they are on. How to really scale your business out. I want to back it up a little bit and talk about how to hire your first virtual assistant. And this kind of a scary thing, especially for people, entrepreneurs that haven’t hired anyone before. I mean a lot of young entrepreneurs haven’t even been to interviews. Haven’t even been hired themselves before, so it’s a little, kind of a freaky subject.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah I think we had a little bit of a head start in this area because we had come from middle management in corporate America, so we had experience hiring and firing people there. So we kind of took some of those tactics and used those when we wanted to hire VA’s.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah I think, one thing that’s specific about VA’s is that, especially the remote VA’s, is that it’s difficult to make them apart of your team and we’re going to talk about this with both hiring Filipino VA’s, American Va’s, but we’re mostly talking about remote age. And it makes it a little more difficult when they are remote, but we are going to go over some of our tips and tricks and basically cover ten bullet points we wanted to go over.

                                                First one is; you should replace on profitable profit streams. So what this means is, don’t have your VA work on something that’s brand new. Something just testing through. Something that’s new and I see this mistake all the time. If you go to O Desk and I’ll try to link to once in the show notes, but you’ll see someone with a job ad that says “look, I want you to build me a site, I want it to be making a $100 a month. Once you proven its making a $100 a month after three months, I’ll pay you $80 for it.” And what the hell is that? I mean they’re just kind of taking a shot in the dark. I’ve seen people ask for guaranteed SEO jobs where their guaranteed to get on the first page of Google and it’s just ridiculous. And so, a bunch of people apply, right.

Joe Magnotti:                    That’s just guaranteed to fail. Is what that’s guaranteed.

Justin Cooke:                     It is.

Joe Magnotti:                    But I think the other thing to remember here as well, you have this profitable stream, if it’s a complicated process or it requires many different moving parts, don’t expect them to be able to jump in there and take everything over.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah you better have it documented, right. And you be able to hand it off to that person. Be able to guide them through it step by step. And I think that’s important. So, it has to be repeatable. It has to be scalable in that there is a process behind it. And this kind of goes into our second point, which is have a very specific job for them. So one of the worse mistakes I think you can make with hiring a VA is expect someone to do everything. Well they’re going to do a little podcast editing for me. They’re going to write me some content, a little coding on the side.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah.

Justin Cooke:                     No one can do that.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah to take a little bit from the first point it would be, like you said, if you add some sort of podcast editing service and instead of them having just the podcast editing to do, they were doing the marketing, they were doing the sales, they were doing the customer service and the podcast editing. I mean you can’t have the VA take over the entire business day one. You can’t expect that to happen. I would have them take little baby steps. Specific jobs and then as you grow together, have them take on more of the business.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah one of the first things we did, we were looking for someone that could post job ads on Craigslist. And the way we found this person was by posting on Craigslist right? So we found someone obviously that was familiar with Craigslist, because they found our ad, and then all we had her do literally her entire job to start was just posting these jobs on Craigslist for us. Following up, making sure that she’s kind of filtering through them and sending us the qualified candidates. So that’s a very specific job. Something that you don’t have to have all these different skills to be able to do. And I think when you hire kind of a generalist, you’re going to get someone who’s not very good at any of those different things.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah and I think that’s definitely some of the drawbacks, but being willing to grow with your VA is the other part of this being specific thing. It’s really important that as they become an expert at one part, you can move them on or grow them.

Justin Cooke:                     To related. To related things that are close. That you can go from one extreme to another.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah.

Justin Cooke:                     So the third point, I want to talk about this a little bit, is the do it yourself route versus the done for you route. So do it yourself is finding a VA on O Desk on Craigslist, onlinejobs.PH. One of them places where you’re going to go through the entire process from finding them to interviewing them to hiring them. And the other option you can use, you can use Virtual Staff Finder, where they do all the recruiting for you and give you the qualified people to interview or the team based outsourcing. Companies like us do it or others, were you can hire three, four, five, eight different people at a time.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah, you know what Justin, I disagree with you a little bit. I think O Desk is in between.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah.

Joe Magnotti:                    It’s not exactly do it yourself because you go on there and it guides you through the entire process.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah I think because they help you manage the person. Where you can manage them through O Desk over time, but still you have to put the job ad out and people are going to apply, you have to kind of weed through them, you have to do all the interviewing.

Joe Magnotti:                    Oh my god, but they make that process so much easier. I mean if you haven’t had-

Justin Cooke:                     Its better than Craigslist.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah, if you have an ad out there on Craigslist, you’re gonna have to make a spreadsheet and track all these people.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah and so that’s the downside. There’s a great learning experience there though. With O Desk kind of middle ground, Craigslist or Online Jobs kind of really trying to do it yourself, but there’s a good experience there I think. If you’ve never done it before, going through the process is good, but it takes a lot of time weeding through the right applicants and it’s a real job. I mean we actually just recently hired someone to just be our hiring manager, to just do that job.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah and I think that’s important to have when you are an organization of our size, but like you said, in the beginning if you can afford to do it yourself, you should, before you move on to somebody that-

Justin Cooke:                     If you have the time. If you have the time to do it right. Now I also think though, heres the benefit of done for you, if you go to Virtual Staff Finder, they’re going to get you the qualified people and kind of pre interview them, pre qualify them for you.

Joe Magnotti:                    Right, but if you don’t have any interviewing experience and you’ve never hired anyone before, then you’re going to have these three qualified people and you’re not going to know how to distinguish between the best, right?

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah, but at least, I don’t know. I’m disagreeing with you man. I don’t know. At least having them pre qualified a bit is better than, I mean if you don’t have any experience, you may end up hiring a donkey. Right? I mean you have no experience, I mean you just get a bunch of people applying via Craigslist. You may not be able to weed them out as well as VSF has already done for you. I don’t know man. I don’t know. It a tough one, but do it yourself you’re definitely going to learn a bit more, but its much more time in senses or if you don’t have the time, VSF is a better route to take.

Joe Magnotti:                    Absolutely. I love VSF and we’ve used the service ourselves when we’ve had our back up against the wall and need to hire someone. Actually we might use them again pretty soon here, but-

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah

Joe Magnotti:                    I just think if you have no experience hiring anyone, and you’ve never done it before, I’d like to see you go out there, put a job posting up and interview ten people and maybe you don’t hire anyone. But at least get some experience of knowing what questions to ask like we are going to talk about in the other seven steps.

Justin Cooke:                     Now VSF is obviously more expensive cause you have to pay a fee to get them to find those qualified people for you. Same thing goes with team based outsourcing. You’re getting a team of three, four, eight, ten people at once, but you’re obviously going to pay more for that. And you’re going to pay more for it in the long run too because they are getting margin in there and that’s how they are making their money. But the benefit to team based outsourcing, is if you need built in management in place. So with Virtual Staff, if you are hiring three, four people and you need to coordinate their efforts, you’re going to be doing that. You don’t have a manager, you don’t have a supervisor running it. Where as with team based outsourcing, you’re going to have a project manager, a supervisor, a manager in place.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah and that fail over there, especially for something critical like if you-

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah someone gets hit by a jeep or goes back to the providence to live or whatever.

Joe Magnotti:                    Like customer service, I always tell people “ well I only need someone for 20 hours a week. Well that’s fine, but if that one person goes down, who does customer service after that?” Nobody knows how. So you really need a team or an extra person trained that only a team based outsourcing solution can provide that. A firm basically.

Justin Cooke:                     Let’s go back to hiring your first VA and this is our fourth point. If you’re doing a do it yourself service like Craigslist or Onlinejobs.ph or whatever, you’re going to want to include some Easter eggs. We always do things like, mention Manny Pacquiano, yeah which is obviously a famous Filipino boxer, the pride of the Philippines. Mention him in your email reply. It’s a good idea to put two in to make sure they are paying attention, right? If they didn’t fully the ad, you want to know that. If they aren’t really paying attention to the ad and what the job is, I mean if they don’t do those Easter eggs, then you know they are just looking for any job, they didn’t really pay attention to what it is.

Joe Magnotti:                    I love this tip because what we’ve seen a lot of VA’s do, especially recently, is get a scripted templated well written answer that they can change a little bit and make themselves seem great. And then they get to the interview and you’re like who is this person?

Justin Cooke:                     Where did you come from man?

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah, so that’s why having, and they just mass reply and use this templated response. So this weeds those people out cause they’re not actually reading the ads. And if they don’t put in the answers to the Easter eggs then you ignore them and move on.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah you see this all the time oh O Desk. People would just applying applying applying right, and they don’t pay attention so, it’s a great sign to, okay we got to discount those people or dismiss them. They weren’t paying attention. And we’ve done the same thing actually for our marketing apprentice, where we’ve had some people that weren’t paying attention to what was listed and their automatically dismissed because they weren’t following the rules and paying attention and that’s obviously a bad start.

                                                Fifth point we have is a grammar test and I have to say weren’t just grammar Nazi’s. You don’t have to have amazing English, but you have to understand what I am saying. The general gist of what I am saying.

Joe Magnotti:                    So we’ve set a baseline over time and we’ll link to it in the show notes. We have this great free online grammar test. It’s about 100 questions. We actually use to use it in the US for Americans and we established a base line over there and we knew that over time that people had scored over an 85 percentile.

Justin Cooke:                     Over 85% and they are great for content here in the Philippines, that’s great for content writers, for editors, that’s going to work. And their communication skills are generally almost always 85 or better there on point. 80 to 85 is fine for other jobs, other positions. Even down to 75 if they have skills-

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah I would say over 75, they are going to be with it. They’re going to be hip, they’re going to understand, they’re going to be able to concentrate on a test of a 100 questions and get good answers.

Justin Cooke:                     And just taking the time to take the damn test, right? Are they following directions and taking the test. Are they committed to working for you? I mean it’s a long test. It will take an hour and a half, right? So.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah and I think it’s great because it really shows their commitment to get the job. It really shows that they do understand english and it’s another way to weed people out.

Justin Cooke:                     It’s a funneling process, right? I mean you start off with a bunch of applicants, and I honestly don’t want to interview everyone that applies because some of them are going to be a complete waste of your time. So if you can knock out those complete waste of time before they even get to you, you are saving yourself a lot of time and headache, everything. So yeah I mean, we’re not grammar Nazi’s, but we want to make sure they can communicate. Also if I ask a question like would you prefer this or that? I won’t get the yes answers. Yes. No no no, this or that, yes. Oh my god you’re killing me.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah or you talk about stuff like “ oh did you see that red firetruck?” And they go-

Justin Cooke:                     The sky is blue.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah.

Justin Cooke:                     No, I don’t, no.

Joe Magnotti:                    Oh god that’s-

Justin Cooke:                     Its painful.

Joe Magnotti:                    Its painful.

Justin Cooke:                     Next point we’re going to talk about, the sixth point is; hire in pairs. And this is really going to help with redundancy. What happens if the one person disappears, quits their job, can’t handle it, needs to leave.

Joe Magnotti:                    I mean we’ve just made this mistake. We hired an HR manager three months ago or four months ago and we hired only one. And we should have hired two or –

Justin Cooke:                     That was a struggle. It was struggle from the beginning and we just, ah okay-

Joe Magnotti:                    We had two good close people in the interview and we should have just hired both of them.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah yeah.

Joe Magnotti:                    And when one of them disappeared and stopped showing up at work, we would’ve had that second one right there.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah and there is some truth too, if you’re hiring a VA, normally it should be cheap enough for you to where you can hire two. And if your business can’t afford to hire two than you probably shouldn’t be hiring one. Right? So yeah I think doubling up is great and you can always find, it’s not like you have to dump one of the two. Pick the winner. You can always save the second person, the one who’s not as good at that job and apply them elsewhere. We’ve done this with people we’ve hired to do content managers, right? And we hired a guy for content manager and he wasn’t great at being a content manager, but he had some good technically skills as far as video and podcast editing and image editing and stuff so we’ve applied him in that area so. Yeah I mean its good to hire two because you’re going to come with a strong winner.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah and then you can also promote from within, so if your business starts to expand and you have to hire more people at the lowest level, you can-

Justin Cooke:                     Take the senior guy, the best guy that would be the best manager in that department or area and have them now manage a team.

                                                Our seventh point I want to talk about is, listening plus following instructions equals a good start. And this applies for everything, specifically in the interview. You’re going to talk probably a little about your business at the beginning of the interview. And it’s great to follow back to that 10-15 minutes down the road and ask them questions about what you told them. What is it that we do? What is this position about? And see what their understanding is.

Joe Magnotti:                    It’s amazing Justin. I mean we learned this in the US. When you ask people “ just tell me what I told you ten minutes ago,” if they can’t repeat that, it’s a sign that they have a problem paying attention.

Justin Cooke:                     You don’t want to be that condescending about it. Can you tell me what I told you ten minutes ago? But you want to make sure, okay what does the job entail? What’s your understanding of what you’re going to do with us? And I think that’s a fair question because you just described the job and if they don’t have a fairly good grasp on that then you know that they aren’t paying attention and definitely not on the same page as what you’re hoping they will be right?

Joe Magnotti:                    Right. And then the other thing I would go a little bit further here, when you’re talking to these people, if they haven’t extreme nervousness, down to the point where they are wringing their hands, won’t look up from the table, that’s a sign that they’re going to be so introverted it’s going to be difficult to work with them. And yes some very introverted people can be extremely smart and extremely useful in your organization, but it’s not the best person to start with.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah its, when we were talking about this before the show, I was thinking of this as a personal pet peeve of yours. You don’t like these nervous people. But, no I don’t think that it. I think you’re right. We talked about this too. We thought maybe was a Philippian thing, cause some people where a little nervous cause we’re these scary white guys and whatever. No it’s not, cause we had the same thing in the US when we were hiring people too, where they were extremely nervous and just really couldn’t communicate because of it. They were so locked up inside themselves that, if you’re hiring someone to be on a team, that requires team output and effort, it’s going to be difficult for them to do that.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah, introverted people are just harder to manage so as your first VA, I would stay away from.

Justin Cooke:                     So it sucks for all the introverted people right now going “awe man, what they wouldn’t hire me?” No, I mean yeah if they can’t operate on the team that’s just no good.

                                                The eight point we’re going to talk about is; in the interview, it’s a really good idea to ask about former positions, former jobs, former coworkers and kind of get a feel for their experience and what they have to say. And you would be amazed at the response.

Joe Magnotti:                    It is so funny right. We have heard the most outrageous things in interviews. We’ve conducted probably more than 500 interviews in our career and I’ve heard people just slam and bring out the worst rumors and dark-

Justin Cooke:                     My coworker was such a skank and she was sleeping with everyone in the company and blah blah. Oh my god and you know want to work at my company and when leave here, you’re going to be talking about the skanks that work with us. No way man. No way.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah it’s just so funny that they are willing to bring this up in interviews and this kind of interviewing 101, so I’m always surprised when I see people do it, but they do do it. So asking about former bosses, asking about why they left former companies, why you do that is to see if they are going to answer negatively. Are they going to put the old company down. Are they going to put down specific people or event at the old company, that’s a sign that somebody could be a cancer in your organization and you do not want that.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah they’re goin to the same exact to you when it’s time to turn around and leave your company and that just kind of a negative, cancerous person. You’re right buddy. It never hurts to ask. It’s always worth asking because it’s amazing the replies you get. Plus it’s fun to laugh about afterwards.

Joe Magnotti:                    It really is.

Justin Cooke:                     Ninth point, is training. You should understand that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. So when you take on a new VA, your time is spent showing them the new process of making sure they are up to speed. And we talk about this quite a bit in our podcast episode about skill transfer. So mastering skill transfer process, getting someone else completely up to speed and transferring that skill over. But that skill transfer process takes some time and it takes some time away from what you’re able to do, so you may think that “ oh my god, it will be great, I have this VA to totally knock out this process for me.” Well the time you’re spent training that person, you’re very unproductive, you’re losing a lot.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah I would say that first week-

Justin Cooke:                     It’s a dip in productivity. You’re going down.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah, clear that first week out. Especially those first few days. She’s going to be nervous about starting, you’re going to be nervous about managing that first person. Make sure that you a lot of hand holding, have a lot of documentation ready for them and really have a specific job for them to accomplish right from the get go.

Justin Cooke:                     But once you come out of that tunnel man, it’s really going to be worth it because you’ll go “ oh my god, It’s so hands off now.” Especially for repeatable processes. These are things that are just off your plate. And talking about it just personally or whatever buddy, I’ve seen you do a lot of that lately. Things that man you shouldn’t be doing that anymore and you’re starting to turn those things over and start having some of our agents do it. I think that’s really cool. It’s funny how we forget to do that ourselves, right. But I think I’ve seen you do a lot of the last four to eight weeks, so.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah I’ve really been trying to push more and more stuff off because it frees up my time to do more of the big thinking items that I want to do.

Justin Cooke:                     And it makes it worse to start but yeah ultimately you can breathe a sigh of relief cause you have now handed off that process.

Joe Magnotti:                    You just have to be willing to understand there is going to be mess ups in the beginning. Theirs is going to be mistakes. It’s not going to kill your business. It is going to be recoverable and you’d be amazed at how many IQ points things go up when people have the freedom to do kind of their own things, so.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah check out our posts on Building Human Machines and the other one on Skill Transfer Processes. I’ll link that in the show notes if you want to go about learning how to train and get your VA up to speed and take over processes.

                                                The last point I want to mention, the tenth point, is the access debate. We get this question a lot too. How much access do your VA’s get and today, our answer today would be a hell of a lot.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah we give them a hell of a lot. I mean we have VA that has access to our PayPal account, so. Only one, but and he’s really a senior guy, but yeah he has access and he can make payments and he can do refunds and I suppose he could steal from us if he really wanted too. But I would say you need to build that layer of trust up of course. But at some point and you say this great Justin, is you don’t want to be limiting your business because you’re afraid to give access. That’s just a bad thing.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah if your growth is becoming stifled because of a lack of access and you’re doing something wrong. I think this really kind of, it’s going to come down to what your tolerance levels are as far as giving access. I would challenge you, dear listener, push through those boundaries a little bit and give little more access than you are comfortable too. Maybe not from day one, but over time give them more access, especially if its holding your business back.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah and from a technical level, most things nowadays have what I would call “Accountability.” So , for instance Go Daddy. You can create sub accounts were your users have different privileges. Same thing with PayPal. So that people don’t have to use the main account. Maybe they have the same privileges as the main account but its accountable. You know exactly what they did, there’s a log of it being their account that did it. So therefore if anything does happen, maybe just a mistake, you can trace that back to say “ hey, you made a mistake here,” let’s go ahead and correct that training and understand what happened.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah so you hear the horror stories a bit. Definitely from people where that access they gave it caused them problems, but what you don’t hear, kind of the silently majority here, are the people that did hand off access and where able to significantly grow their business because of it. And so yeah from our prospective it’s a little counterintuitive a bit, but yeah give away more access. Especially for businesses in the growth phase. It’s worth it to get your business where it needs to be. And obviously one particular point generally won’t set your entire business back. It would be painful, it would not be great, it would really suck sometimes, but it’s not going to shut everything down.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah and you can always set up buffer points. If someone needs PayPal money in order to reload Fiver and you want to give them access to your main PayPal account, then create them a PayPal account and give them 50 bucks and if they steal your 50 bucks, then that’s it. You don’t pay them and you never hire them back and you’re better of it. But I think there’s a lot of these layers of protection that you can set up for yourself and along with accountability, they’ll provide enough security to begin with until you develop a layer of trust and can kind of move them up.

Justin Cooke:                     So we’d really like to hear from you about any virtual staff you’ve hired. Any horror stories or success stories with VA’s you’ve worked with. Definitely let us know in the comments and what we’d love to respond to those. And specifically about the access. Does that freak you out? Is that, do you see how the growth potential is there? What are your thoughts on that?

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah and I’d like to hear if you guys had any hiring nightmares like interview, tips or tricks that you use, any kind of questions, the stuff that we look for. Easter egg hunt, grammar tests.

Justin Cooke:                     Yeah, help us out, we are always looking for cool new stuff. We’ll throw it in.

Joe Magnotti:                    Yeah we’re always looking for those kinds of things. And if you have any interesting stories from various strange interviews, we’d like to hear that too.

Justin Cooke:                     Alright buddy let’s get it to the tips, tricks and our plans for the future.

speaker 1:                           You’re listening to the Empire Flippers podcast with Justin and Joe.

Justin Cooke:                     So I’ve got the tip for this week buddy and let me tell you about it a little bit. We’ve been doing the apprentice interviews, right? And the apprentice interview is coming up. I was looking for a way to kind of automate the interviews, right. Set up a time and kind of send them out a reminders and deal with the time zone problem and all of that, so. I actually, I was digging around, I remember one that I really liked that we used with Trent Dyrsmid when we set up the interview with him and he was using a service called Scheduleonce.com. Fantastic service buddy. So heres the deal, you set it up, it works. It integrates directly with Google calendar right? We’ll look at the times you have busy and block those out. You can set times either every week, the date and times you are available. You can set how many appointments you want to take per day, whether its 30 minute- hour long appointments, if you need a break between them. It’s really really cool man. I’m digging it.

Joe Magnotti:                    So it’s different than, the just scheduling part of Google calendar because it allows people to pick the times as you set as available.

Justin Cooke:                     Exactly. And then it also does the whole time zone thing so we’ll know based on there, you can select the time zone they are in, pick their time and it will put it in my calendar in the right time zone as well. You can also have them send automated reminders. So like 12 hours out or one hour out from the interview you can have it send a quick reminder, email or whatever, letting them know. Really cool. I dig it. I’m on the free trial right now, it is a paid service, but then I think multiple users that can use it and coordinate their schedules and stuff. It’s pretty cool, but the fact that just automatically bam boom integrates with Google calendar is sweet. I mean we are big Google Calendar guys so.

Joe Magnotti:                    Right. What’s it called again?

Justin Cooke:                     It’s called scheduleonce.com.

Joe Magnotti:                    Cool.

Justin Cooke:                     Well that’s it for episode 62 of the Empire Flippers podcast. Thanks for being with us. We will be seeing you next week and make sure to check us out on Twitter @empireflippers. See you around.

Joe Magnotti:                    Bye bye everybody.

speaker 1:                           You’ve been listening to the Empire Flippers podcast with Justin and Joe. Be sure to hit up Empireflippers.com for more. That’s Empireflippers.com.

                                                Thanks for listening.


  • John says:

    Excellent post! You have done work by sharing this post with us. I really appreciate this effort. I am also planning to get a virtual assistant for my business. Thanks for sharing this post, it will really help me to plan accordingly. Keep sharing more!

  • Dave Gibbins says:

    Episode 62 was an awesome podcast! As always! There are so many weeks where you bring out a podcast just as I am in the thought process of the subject you host. Hiring your first VA is one of those steps I have not yet taken. Lots of tips in there for any VA hiring novices like myself!

    I have put to use your ‘Easter egg’ tip when hiring a developer on Elance, thanks you guys, I was able to discard about a third of the applicants with ease! Some looked to have great English but they didnt read my job thoroughly obviously!

    Which brings me onto the Getmelistednow.co.uk domain name… I am working on an app which promoted bars and clubs in the UK, it is set to go live very soon. The plan is to then roll out a similar app for restaurants. getmenlistednow.co.uk (or/and .com) would be an awesome side product to go alongside the app. Where I can use my digital marketing and SEO skill with the bars, clubs and restaurants I have already partnered with to do great local SEO and help them further (with a little more consulting money for me 😉 ).

    Keep up the great work, blogs and podcasts Justin and Joe, you give so much out for free and its appreciated!

  • Justin Cooke says:

    Hey bobdak,

    Interesting that you’ll use this episode in the reverse…to help people land a job…awesome!

    I dig the GMLN plan…I think you’re on to something there! We’ll discuss the “winner” next week…thanks for the comment and strategy outline!

  • Justin Cooke says:

    Hey Tung!

    I just read about your journey with VA’s on your site…interesting stuff:


    I like how you used filters and canned responses with applicants…that was a pretty slick idea. Definitely important to do the face-to-face with final interviews, I think…

    Definitely document the job…have your VA do it, in fact! You should already have the basic/general outline documented, but you can have the VA add in the more specific details…

  • Justin Cooke says:

    Hey, Mark…

    Love the strategy! Joe and I will discuss who we’ll be giving the sites to next week. I dig your strategy…if you’re the winner I’d love to have a call or two to go over tactics and (hopefully) help give you a running start!

  • Justin Cooke says:

    Hey Rick!

    We’ll definitely keep you in the running for GMLN – Joe and I will be discussing next week!

    Glad to hear you’re having great results with IntelliTheme! Most of the feedback has been really positive, we’re happy to report!

  • mark savastano says:

    Apologize if this is a repeat, it didn’t seem to post.

    Excellent Podcast, and I purchased the Pro – Empire Starter Pack last month. I am learning a lot doing all the tasks related to building and ranking niche sites.


    I would like to be considered for the http://getmelistednow.com/ and GetMeListedNow.co.uk giveaway.

    I currently do WP sites on the side for small businesses, as well as SEO. I have been really digging into SEO and
    keeping up with the latest trends, etc. Some of the experts I follow are Glen from http://www.Viperchill.com Brian Dean from http://www.backlinko.com, and http://www.moz.com, and several others.

    I live just outside of NYC, and there is such a gap between local businesses and an online presence. I feel there is so much value to be offered.

    Most service, or even product-based businesses, could really expand their customers by taking advantage of SEO.

    For example: take a search for “Location”and “Service”. Using Long Tail Pro you would see that these types of searches are generally low searches, maybe a
    couple of hundred at most. The first page of Google is ripe for this kind of term.

    Now for most Affiliate Marketers and E-commerce people it’s generally too low to even bother with. This is what is
    perfect for small businesses, here are some advantages:

    a. Easy to rank for.
    b. Very targeted traffic(high CTR), these people have their ‘Wallets’ or ‘cell phones’ in hand.
    c. Converting even a handful of customers a month could mean thousands of dollars in new business for a service company or a lifetime customer for a retail/ product store

    Real-life Example:

    I’m Italian and I love good Italian bread, even in North Jersey it’s not always easy or convenient to find. A few weeks ago, I was having dinner party, and did not want to travel down to the usual places(hour drive).

    I threw in the search “North Jersey” “Best Italian bread” and “Bakery” “North
    Jersey”, and the results are total garbage. The top 10 consisted of 5 Yelp reviews and a Bakery that’s been out of business for two years?!?! The site hasn’t been updated in two years and they rank on page #1.

    Question: How hard would it be to outrank a bunch of Yelp reviews and a closed down bakery?

    Hint: Not that hard.


    For GetMeListedNow.com, I would reach out to local businesses in the area and start contacting them for the service, doing some preliminary research on their business. I would even do it for free in the beginning until I built up some reputation. Work out an arrangement like, I‘ll do this for nothing or minimal cost, and after
    one or two months if you like the results you will agree to pay this. I would concentrate on over-delivering, and working closely with each business, until businesses were knocking on my door to give me work.

    Things I wouldn’t do:

    Waste time on the latest marketing trends or get heavily involved in Social Media, Email Marketing, or Advertising. I would
    concentrate on creating the best value out there, over-delivering, and building a rock solid foundation for this business. Once that
    is firmly planted, then strategically expanding and widening my audience would make sense.

    This business is very scalable. You could expand into new territories and could someday even replace the model for
    listing services like Angie’s List and Service Magic, except it would be free.
    for the consumers.

    Start Locally, Think Globally.

    That’s my plan.



  • Jennifer says:

    Thanks guys for the podcast it was very reassuring.

    I seem to be going through SEO/WP VAs like crazy.

    It’s been 1 week with the latest and I have to repeat my directions a million times. I say DO NOT remove the photos on the WP site and when they submit their work all images are gone and everything I asked for was not done correctly.

    My VA even called me the wrong name and spelt my name wrong.

    I w have a full time job and work with people overseas all day long and they seem to understand me just fine. Obviously there can be miscommunication and I completely understand there will be hand holding – but when do you decide enough is enough and this person is not teachable?

    Any advice is very much appreciated!

    • Sounds to me like a training issue, although you might be hiring the wrong people too. Use the grammar test we recommend so you can be confident that the candidate’s English is strong. Use our recommended training process and be sure to document what you want done using screenshots or recordings.

  • OMG. No KPI? WTF.

    Just kidding guys, great primer on getting started with a VA,
    Very educational and very actionable,


    • Yeah we’ll leave those acronyms for the corporate suits. However, when dealing with a bunch of candidates, it makes sense to objectively score them so you can identify the clear leaders. Pick 3-5 categories and average the score. Top candidates make it to the second round.

  • Miki Vicioso says:

    Hey guys! I’ve been hiring people for the past 6 months, I finally have a team of 5 🙂 it was a process and have to go over several people really impress with the bad quality of workers out there. Anyway! great podcast!

    • Justin Cooke says:

      It can be a learning process, for sure…and sometimes hard to find the right people!

      Careful, though…when you have problem after problem with people on your team, new hires, etc…eventually you have to turn that finger (and blame) around at yourself and see what you’re doing wrong. When everyone else starts to seem like X…there might be something wrong on your end!

      Joe and I were joking about that ourselves today, actually, when it comes to us and hiring developers, lol.

  • Charles says:

    Hey Justin and Joe,

    I know people are going to be talking about all these things why they are standup people, their grandma recently dead, they desire it due to their left eye missing, their girlfriend/boyfriend left them for their mother/dad, etc(the last one was sick! I know).

    Well, sorry, but everyone has a story why they should desire it. I could say I’m x, x,x,x,x,x,x, and x, but it doesn’t matter.

    You might ask why I’m say this, since I’ve talked to Justin before, and he knows a bit of my story. I’m not saying this isn’t important, but the fact of the matter is that everyone has a history. I’m saying this doesn’t matter due to one fact, making a business isn’t about your recent history, your past, or if your in college. It might mean experience in some cases, but the fact of the matter is your brown nosing(here’s a tissue), and that you go to college isn’t revolutionary. It’s more of a join the club kind of thing.

    It’s all about drive, working hard, and hustling, but most of all the smarts to do it. Do you want your old business in the hands of someone that has some great list of ideas they read from a WSO or typical hiring response statements such as they can bake their grandma cookies(too soon with the grandma jokes? sorry), think of something they “can” do, or their biggest fault is they care too much(aw that too sweet?). It’s all about thinking of interesting ways to grow the business, and someone that will really do(not “can”) it. Someone that does(again, not can) allow you to look back at it, and say wow I’m glad I left that business to Charles. (ignore the psychological transfer process going on there with the name drop. charles. charles.)

    If that’s what you want… I’m waiting for you.

    PS: Sorry about your grandma dude that sucks, mind if you share that cookie recipe with me?

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Yeah, looking at results and what’s actually been done is important. You can’t totally discount the backstory, but there’s definitely more weight applied to results, I think!

  • Curtis Cooper says:

    HI Guys,

    I really enjoyed the episode. Lot of good tips and I also run into a lot the same problems. Especially people not showing up for interviews. I have had days that were fully booked with face to face interviews in my office and not even one person showed up! Talk about frustrating. I would say on the average, I get about a 50% that are no call no show. Some will send me a text a few hours after the interview and give me some lame excuse.

    One thing that was not mentioned is the amount of pay that the staff are getting. I have found through much trial and error, is when I pay my staff more the performance, attendance, retention and attitude is greatly improved and well worth the money spent.

    Hope to see you guys again soon!

    • Glad you like this episode Curtis.

      As for pay, I always advise hourly pay in the Philippines. This rewards employees who work a full day, overtime, and holidays. Yes perhaps efficiency is not valued as much, but there are other ways to track that.

      We should get together for a beer some time and swap strategies.

      • Curtis Cooper says:

        OK Joe, I would like that. Hope to see you soon!

      • Iain Robson says:

        Isn’t that a bit different than what Chris Ducker does?

        I think he does 500$ flat rate. If my memory serves me correctly.

        I really like that idea though Joe it makes perfect sense.

        • Are you talking about VSF? That’s a flat fee just to find the agent — you still need to pay the agent directly. I’m not sure what Chris recommends but I know he would prefer full time work. And I think he would agree with me that hourly is the way to go.

          • Iain Robson says:

            Yeah for VSF.

            I know there is a flat fee to help find a VA, but after that I am not sure how the pay works. I’ve heard 500$ a month but that may be dated now.

            Chris suggests a full time VA over a part time one for sure.

            In either case, hourly makes the most sense.

          • To be clear I agree, it’s better to hire VA full time. But even at full time I think hourly pay is more rewarding for both the employer and employee.

          • Iain Robson says:

            Have you ever experimented with flat rate?

          • Yes, we have and I will always try to stay away from it. I recommend this to my outsourcing clients as well, especially with new untested agents. Sometimes they take my advice and sometimes not, with mixed results. To me the small number of horror stories of people not showing up for work on time, taking too many days if off is proof enough to always go hourly.

          • Justin Cooke says:

            How much you pay per month is going to depend on the skillsets required, experience level, etc.

            Keep in mind that Chris has to play both sides of the fence there…on the one hand he’s recruiting VA’s to come work with VSF for good rates, cool bosses, awesome projects, etc. On the other, he’s helping business owners find good VA’s.

            I’d also mention that you can agree to a particular rate (i.e. $500/month) and have that broken down hourly ($3.12/hour at 160 hours per month…a little less for accounting nerds!) You can track via something like HiveDesk…

  • Peter Nilsson says:

    Ok guys..tell me..are u not getting the reults u use to with EMD and therefore going towards brandable domains with linkjuice..have you experienced that the value of EMDs has gone down a lot recently and do you regurly try to register EMD and redirect expired domains to your EMD..help me out here I just registred and is plowing through your guide at the moment..have some experience in niche websites and would really like to hear your view on this.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Hey Peter,

      We’re pulling up the data now on this. (It’s manual…taking a while) What we’ve seen so far is that the sites are still profitable for us, EMD’s still work, etc…just not as well as they did when we first started.

      For example, a site that earned $10/month with us before was worth around $250-$270 in a sale. ($50-$70 in earnings and $200 in sales value)

      Now…a site earning $7/month is only worth $160-$180. That works…just not AS profitable as before.

      There’s also another concern – we want to sell and support sites in the $4K – $20K range. Most of our (current) niche sites don’t get to that level. If we’re going to get there and serve that market, we have to build bigger, higher-earning sites, if that makes sense…

      Trust me, if we thought the niche sites we were building today didn’t work or were not profitable, we’d dump them like a bad habit. Otherwise, we’d be throwing good money after bad…not a good path for us!

  • tiedtothe wind says:

    Trying to come up with a great reason why you should give my that .co.uk site. I must be under valuing myself, because I can’t think of one yet.

    Great show though guys, some great tips.
    Eddy. The eventual entrepreneur

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Hey Eddy!

      We just want to make sure we’re sending them off to a “good home”, so to speak. They were our babies, so we want to send them off to someone that might have a plan or idea on how to use them. 🙂

  • Gunnar Bengtsson says:

    Very timely podcast subject, I just submitted my job description to Virtual Staff Finder yesterday! I’m looking for a low level web developer to start replacing myself on some of the more time consuming tasks I do on a daily basis.

    • Justin Cooke says:

      Awesome, Gunnar!

      Yeah, VSF is great, but you have to be pretty specific when it comes to what you’re looking for. The more specific you are, the better chance they’ll find you exactly what you need…it sounds like you’re off to a good start! Let us know how it works out for you, eh?

      • Gunnar Bengtsson says:

        I’ll definitely keep you guys posted on how it goes Justin. By the way, I like the idea of having them do that grammar test, I’ll see if I can implement that this time.

        • Using the grammar test will revolutionize your hiring. No joke, it’s that good. It measures so many more things than just grammar — like can they pay attention for a few hours or do they have a good enough internet connection with a quiet place to work.

          • Gunnar Bengtsson says:

            So I’ve been interviewing web developers yesterday and today. Very interesting process to go through. I love the grammar test as it gives me an actual measurable data point to look at when comparing candidates. I have three candidates that are all, as far as I can tell, reasonable well versed technically. All three have a couple of years of work experience and are in their early to mid twenties. But one of them scored an 86 on the grammar test – the others scored 79. All else being equal I’m leaning towards hiring the candidate with the highest grammar score. Makes sense, right? I guess it also helps that this candidate did well in the Skype interview and was the only one I had an actual face to face video feed from – the others were voice only.

          • Makes sense, though I would says with developers a keen mind and ability to take objectives to a reality is more important than grammar scores. 79 and 86 in terms of this test are close — they good enough. I imagine none of the candidates will have trouble communicating in English. I would focus more on how you jive best with and who has a track record of success.

          • Justin Cooke says:

            “All else being equal” your point about the grammar test makes sense…but I would make damn sure one isn’t better than the other in the ways Joe’s mentioned here. He’s right in that there are other things (track record, seeing eye-to-eye) that are more important than the 7 point score, IMO.

          • Gunnar Bengtsson says:

            Good points guys. Making it even harder to choose, the highest test score applicant actually has the lowest credentials – some type of technical college/computer studies, where both of the others have a BSc in Information Technology. My gut feeling says they all should do well in this position though. VSF has done a good job of screening candidates.

            In the end I’m just going to take a deep breath and pick one of the three. Ideally I could have gone with all three and seen which one did better over time but I can’t really justify hiring more than one person at this time.

  • seba112 says:

    Nice Podcats guys. Hoho….Justin is coming back to the Podcast:X
    this or that? the Sky Is Blue :)))))))) I fell off with my chair of laugh.

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